In California, employment is presumed to be "at-will" meaning that an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason. However, the courts and the legislature have made significant exceptions to the "at-will" rule. Many statutes protect employees from demotion and termination including:
- discrimination laws protecting employees from employment decisions based on race, age, sexual orientation, gender, religion and disability to name a few.
- filing workers compensation claims or labor commission claims
- complaints about workplace safety or disclosing illegal acts of an employer to a governmental agency
- taking medical leave or for family care
- protesting an employer's unlawful practices including wages, safety, and discipline
There are two types of discrimination. Disparate treatment is when a member of a protected class of employees is treated differently and less favorably by an employer in terms of compensation, conditions or privileges of employment than non-class members. Disparate impact is where a disproportionate number of employees of a certain class do not enjoy the same benefits, privileges and opportunities as non-class members. Again, members of protected classes can bring these claims.
Statutes prohibit harassment based on a protected class. Harassment is defined as verbal, physical, or visual conduct that is unwanted and is either severe or pervasive. Harassment has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work environment by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive workplace.
Retaliation occurs when an employee engages in a "protected activity" and then suffers an adverse employment action because of it. Protected activities include complaints to employers about health, safety, discrimination, harassment, failure to pay wages at the proper rate and almost any other statutorily protected right of a worker.
Wage and Hour Violations
There are several types of Labor Code violations that employer's frequently abuse. They include: misclassification of employees as exempt from overtime; requiring employees to work "off the clock;" missed meal and rest breaks; unreimbursed business expenses; failure to pay out vacation time on termination and related conduct.
If you think that you have been mis-treated by your employer, please complete our website questionnaire and we will promptly respond.